Schuh Column: Odds and Ends
By Jim Schuh
Bananas are a fruit we take for granted – and one many of us enjoy every day. We experience them as a fruit, but also in jokes and songs. Bananas are all around us.
I remember a joke we used to tell as kids – the first fellow said, “Sir, why do you have a banana in your ear?” The second fellow replied, “I can’t hear you – I have a banana in my ear.”
Silly, of course but perfect for juveniles.
Here are a few more — Q: Why did the banana go out with the prune? A: Because he couldn’t find a date. Or Q: What is the easiest way to make a banana split? A: Cut it in half. Or this: Q: Why don’t bananas snore? A: Because they don’t want to wake up the rest of the bunch.
The word, “bananas” is an integral part of our speech. Its origin is African and came to our language via Spanish or Portuguese.
No doubt you’ve “gone bananas” over something – meaning you’ve gone crazy, burst with anger or shown significant enthusiasm over something. The phrase probably came from “going ape,” since apes and bananas are closely connected.
The crescent-shaped banana is something many of us peel the wrong way, leaving us with strings. Experts tell us not to peel the fruit from the top. Instead, start at the bottom by using you thumb and index finger to pinch it, splitting the banana skin and allowing you to peel it back cleanly – with no strings. Even though I learned that just a few years ago, I confess to sometimes peeling my bananas the way most of us still do.
As a kid, I remember my dad singing the first few lines of, “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” a novelty song that hit number one in 1923. Several artists recorded the song, and Spike Jones made a recording of it later. Jimmy Durante also sang it from time-to-time.
I bring up this song because it may forecast the future – the day we have no bananas. That day may be far off – or it could be closer than we think, making the sliced banana on your breakfast cereal a thing of the past. Scientists are working to save the banana from extinction.
A fungus called Panama disease that resides in soil gets into the roots of banana trees and quickly kills the fruit. It has caused billions in damage already in banana-producing corners of the world – Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Africa and the Philippines and agriculture officials fear it may wind up in Central and South America, where most our bananas come from – $2.2 billion worth each year. Experts say it’s just a matter of time before the fungus arrives and begins doing its dirty work. The disease has caused economic disaster for millions who rely on bananas for their livelihood and for the millions who depend on the fruit for their calorie intake in some of the world’s banana-producing regions.
One way to attack the problem is by using different species of bananas that are resistant to Panama disease. This has worked in the past when different diseases threatened the banana crop, but it takes time. Scientists also have been trying to stop Panama disease’s spread through genetic modification. The big banana producers – Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte – can help fund research to find a way to stop the disease and keep their banana trees healthy and their business intact.
It’s hard to imagine life without bananas, so in the meantime, I guess we should enjoy our bananas every chance we can.
In my reporting days, I covered several area annual corporate meetings of area businesses.
At those sessions, the firms usually put out snacks for shareholders to munch on, and after a while, I decided to evaluate the company’s performance on the basis of the snacks they offered – primarily cookies. Strangely, I found the better the cookies, the better the company had performed during the previous year. I know that’s not scientific and probably nonsense, but it was fun to tell the CEO what I thought of his cookies.
The New York Times reports that NBA star Stephen Curry has developed something similar – a scoring system for popcorn at the various NBA venues. Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee doesn’t do very well – Curry rates the popcorn there as ninth from the bottom. He gives the Dallas Mavericks stadium the highest marks for its popcorn. His system considers freshness, saltiness, crunchiness, butter and presentation.
There’s a new acronym you might like to learn – it’s “BOPUS.”
As our shopping habits change, the acronym will become more common. It stands for: “Buy online, pickup in store.”
A survey this past November revealed that almost one-in-three online users had bought online before picking up their purchases in a store. And seven-in-ten people like the idea and most plan to use it in the future.
One other note – we all love our moms. The National Retail Federation is predicting spending for the upcoming Mother’s Day will reach $25 billion – up from $23.1 billion last year. Average spending for Mother’s Day gifts will be just under $200.
Spending for jewelry at $5.2 billion will be up by about one-third this year. Three-quarters of us will send mom cards while two-thirds will buy $2.6 billion worth of flowers. More than half will take mother on a special outing, mainly restaurant meals, spending $4.6 billion.
Best wishes to all our mothers!